I was fortunate to be asked to help facilitate a series of Circles that involved law students, inmates and various speakers. The speakers were volunteers from various aspects of the criminal justice system (a victim, police officer, judge, prosecutor, public defender).
I met a man who, as a person, has stayed with me. You know when you meet people and there is “something” to them. It struck me that I held a prejudice/judgement that all offenders would feel adversarial about the criminal justice system. This man did not feel that, he felt grateful he lived in a state that did not have the death penalty. I would never have expected to meet someone grateful for a life sentence. He also had a committment to his fellow man, to making a decent life with what he had. I experienced him as humble and respectful.
After learning more of his story, I started to feel there was an “in-justice”. My perspective changed as I learned more.
Restorative Justice is victim-centered. From the perspectives of the victims, the crime was horrible. I know another victim who gives me a perspective I would not have expected. I found her perspective a little hard to explain. I was sharing an invitation I had received to a “homecoming”. The homecoming was coming after 17 1/2 years in prison for taking a life. The homecoming is detailed on the website, From Death to Life.
What I explained to my new friend was how people say the Lord’s prayer and say “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us”. For some who have experienced a loved one’s murder, and they say that prayer, Restorative Justice helps, if a dialogue is desired to do the forgiving.
Mary Johnson, founder of From Death to Life, lived and continues to live a Restorative Justice experience. Her perspective shows us that finding justice is a journey.
Justice depends on your perspective and I believe our perspectives change as we meet people, live different experiences.
It’s been feeling “unjustified” to me that my brother’s wife has leukemia. Yet it was shared with me that she isn’t mad. Thank goodness, because anger takes up lots of energy. She needs her energy for healing. I guess Megan isn’t mad at anyone, because the diagnosis has shown her how much she is loved and made her realize how much she loves everyone else. So it comes down to LOVE.
The greatest law of all, to LOVE. Maybe that is how we get to a place of our own ‘justice’ is when we find a place of ‘love’. Justice might just be as personal as love and spirituality, for each person to know on their own, and not to be judged for any choices.